nl en

Palaeoecology and Quaternary stratigraphy: A basic introduction


Admission requirements

Degree students (including Dutch BA graduates): BA or BSc degree (or equivalent) in Archaeology or a relevant discipline.


This course will summarise the methods and techniques employed by archaeo-/palaeo-botanists and zoologists when reconstructing past environments (including climate) or when considering how hominins or humans exploited various components of the ecosystems they inhabited during the Quaternary. In addition, the geological history and the stratigraphical subdivision of the Quaternary will be presented and discussed.

The course is open to RMSc-Bioarchaeology students. Although participating in the same lectures, their assignments will be different. They will write a different type of essay, in which the topic is studied in more depth, critically reviewed and new directions for research are formulated.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of the methods and techniques used by archaeo-/palaeo-botanists and zoologists;

  • Understanding of how these methods and techniques are used by archaeologists to generate data (direct or proxy) that answer specific research questions;

  • Realisation of the limitations of each method or technique when applied to answering archaeological research questions;

  • To understand that a multi-disciplinary approach to problem solving is desirable;

  • Knowledge of the geological history and stratigraphical subdivision of the Quaternary;

  • To understand that it is fundamental to put archaeology in an ecological and chronological context;

  • Ability to select and critically evaluate relevant literature.

In addition to the above, RMSc-students develop the ability to

  • critically review the significance of current research;

  • report such reviews in writing in an essay;

  • formulate innovative new directions of research.


Course schedule details can be found in the MA time schedule.

Mode of instruction


Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures (1 ects);

  • 280 pages of literature (2 ects);

  • 2 essays presenting the results of a case study assigned to the candidate (2 ects).

Assessment method

  • Written examination (50%);

  • 2 essays (50%).

The essays may be used to compensate for a failed written exam. However, it is advisable to do the written retake, since the essays need to be of very high quality if they are to be used as compensation.

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the examination schedule.

Reading list

To be announced.


Registration for the course is not necessary, registration for the exam is mandatory. For instructions, see the Registration in uSis page.


For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr. M. van Kolfschoten or dr. M.H. Field.


Compulsory attendance.